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Rick McGrath [Film Festival 10.22.08] movie review comedy cult

Year: 2008
Release date: Unknown
Director: Darren Curtis / Pat Kiely
Writers: Darren Curtis / Pat Kiely
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Dr. Nathan
Rating: 9 out of 10

Who is KK Downey? Careful, that might be a trick question. Although we actually do discover who KK Downey is, or isn’t, it probably doesn’t matter much in this wildly well-done satire of our culture’s sick fascination with fame and fortune and the nasty things some people will do to achieve an illusory success. Perhaps it’s best to say KK Downey is also the imaginary door that opens into the dark world of money, power, fame and, oh yeah – ball-busting satire.

Our story revolves around the irresponsible and/or genius antics of two 20-something suburbanite losers, Terrance and Theo, who discover that sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. Their quest to be something more than they are is helped and hindered by Terrance’s ex-girlfriend Sue, her narcissistic boyfriend Connor, and Frankie, a drugged-out gay transgendered drifter. The story is effectively simple: the boys are fixated on becoming rich and famous but are predictably getting nowhere fast. Theo, the chubby submissive, has written a book called Truck Stop Hustler about a serious sexual deviant he calls KK Downey. Unable to get the book published – “nobody wants to read a book by a white kid from the suburbs”, they decide to turn it from fiction to autobiography, with Terrance dressing up as KK, and Theo as The Manager. Then the fun begins.

This movie is very well-written, so I’m not going to give away all the giggles, but like all satires, it does reveal its dark side – in this case, the well-paced transformation of Theo Huxtable from a polite, self-effacing momma’s boy into a coke-snorting, gun waving, posse-packing madman who now calls himself “T-Hux” and is willing to sacrifice all for moolah and the power that apparently comes with it. Theo’s rise and fall represents the message of the movie, and now that we’ve got that over with, we can wallow in the rather unlikely wackiness that fits like a new dust jacket over this novel comedy.

The Dr says unlikely because aside from the lesson about how money and fame can destroy friendships, writers (and directors) Darren Curtis and Pat Kiely take dead aim at a number of western cultural institutions, most notably: book publishing, critics, hopelessly inept “artists” and the whole concept of popular culture as defined and expressed though the media.

I was also highly amused by how cleverly Curtis and Kiely were able to ever-so-slightly move their premise from broad comedy to detailed absurdity as the story progresses. Take the fake KK. The first time we see him it’s Terrance in disguise, all done up with a big hat, dark specs and a truly substantial blonde wig. By the end of the movie pretty well all pretense of actually disguising Terrance as KK has been abandoned, but still no one ever recognizes him, including Silly Sue, the ex-girlfriend who Terrance attempts to re-win as KK. Given Terrance’s angular face and erratic teeth, you gotta wonder just what these people do see. I’ll propose an answer: exactly what they want to see. But this is just one funny aspect of a very well-written, tightly drawn, surprisingly complex story that moves quickly, offers up many laughs, and still manages to convey a moral – no matter what, best friends are our most valuable possessions.

Full kudos to the ditsy duo who put this fantastic flick together: Darren Curtis and Pat Kiely not only star as Terrance/KK and Connor, but they also share directing, writing and production credits. Darren’s Terrance is great as the edgy loser who can’t find a job, a girl or recognition for his lack of talent, and his KK is as deliciously fake as the premise behind the Truck Stop Hustler book. Pat plays the hubris-heavy Connor to perfection, giving us a dead-on look at the false pretentiousness of cultural critics, in this case, a “cd reviewer” who constantly attempts to wildly over-intellectualize what is essentially mundane crap. (Should I be looking in a mirror?) Jealous of KK’s success (probably because he had nothing to do with it), and fearful of losing Sue, Connor’s best scene is at his writing desk, where he tries to write a puff piece on KK for the newspaper, but ends up masturbating to a small portrait of Voltaire! The audience loved it.

Matt Silver has the role of Theo, and his work is worth the price of admission, as all the other characters pretty well stay true to character throughout the story, but Theo is the main star, the milquetoast sidekick who changes the most and with whom we all tend to empathize. His acting is strong and subtle, and his transformation basically drives the plot. Kristin Adams plays Sue, the idiot performance artist who breaks up with Terrance to fall for Connor and then KK. She’s very good in her role as a goofy middle-class white girl with questionable artistic pretensions – her shtick is to anthropomorphize all the objects in her life – “everything deserves a soul”, she insists. Sounds great, but what she actually does is simply stick those little google eyes on everything around her. Hilarious.

The photography is very good, utilizing a number of quasi-familiar exterior shots from the streets of Montreal, all the bit players do very well, and the cool plot is riddled with endless jokes, sight gags, ironies and twists. Completely devoid of anything scary or overtly sexual, the movie only manages to avoid being approved for a kiddie audience by unleashing an endless stream of profanities from beginning to end. After awhile you get used to it, especially after watching Terrance run blue streaks up and down his parents at the dinner table. Kids today, eh?

My doctorly opinion? If laughter is the best medicine, then Who Is KK Downey? is funny enough to, well, raise the dead.

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